The “Pucker Factor”

Fred Burton is a No. 407 Squadron veteran who, amongst other things,flew the museum’s Lancaster (FM159) from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to serve with the squadron in Comox in June, 1955.

The “Pucker Factor”
by Fred Burton

Our crew was duty crew on May 31, 1956 (hope the date is right) and got an order to get airborne. We didn’t know what it was but evidently the radar station for GCI (ground controlled interception) was being jammed. We took off at 13:05 in Lanc 920 and were told to fly a northwest heading toward the point of the jamming.

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I was on radar and ECM and after a couple of hours of following the ECM signal I detected an intermittent radar contact about 100 miles or so ahead of us. We had been using ECM radar detection to fly on the heading until then and “squirting” on a random basis looking for an echo. As we approached the target the radar contact became quite solid and then started breaking up into multiple contacts. You have to remember this was about the peak of the Cold War. The jamming had continued unabated and if they had to scramble CF100’s from Comox they would not be able to control them for an interception due to the jamming.

The closer we got to the target the more blips appeared. (Invasion force?? .. start of pucker factor). We finally had about 100+ targets in all. When we finally overflew the target it was an armada of boats. Fishing boats and all flying the Russian flag. We subsequently found out it was a Russian “fishing fleet” and one boat had a “bad” radar. Sure .. I still believe they were trying to see how long an interception would take.

Back in those days neither side trusted the other. Even in the venerable Lancaster total time from the jamming being detected until identification was about 3 hours or so. After ID’ing the target we returned to base and the jamming stopped within minutes of our pass over the fleet, a few photos and departure for home base.